As I see it, Kenneth Goldsmith’s latest project — printing out the internet — will serve as a bookend to conceptualist poetry. Not that others in that camp won’t continue to “uncreate” works, but since his endeavor (if he pulls it off) will include damn near everything, and because he’s already generated a lot of attention, criticism, and even a petition to keep him from doing it, what could possibly come next?
If I understand conceptualism correctly, it’s all about process, and all the attention being devoted to POTI is — or will be — automatically part of the process and, in this case, literally part of the final product. You can object to POTI on environmental grounds, but if you write a blog post about that, you’ve contributed another piece of paper to it (just as I’m doing now). It’s all very clever, but merely so. The spectacle of this is really the thing, so in a sense the work is already done, and I can’t imagine the unveiling of this pile of paper being anything but anti-climactic. I could be wrong, of course, but I do have back-up:
There is nothing so ancient and so dead as human novelty. The latest is always stillborn. It never even manages to arrive. –Thomas Merton
Update (August 7): I’ve posted links in this post’s comments section to a couple worthwhile pieces that address literary Conceptualism far more deeply than I have here, but Seth Abramson’s piece at The Volta is a must-read.